Oct 31, 2007

Blindfolded Reality

India has a judicial system that had a stature of its own – one that personified excellence!!! Set up during the British times the system has evolved over the years. Sadly though, after over half a century of Independence the Indian Judiciary today fails to command the respect it used to till a few decades ago.

Corrupt officials across the cross-section of the system have ruined its very existence. Judicial bodies are looked up to as the last resort to ensure fair judgment and a society that keeps a tab on crime, injustice and anything else that makes life difficult for the people of the nation.

The judicial bodies in India, right from the tribunals, high courts and up to the Supreme Court of India have huge volumes of pending trials. Judgments are unjustifiably delayed. It takes years before innocent people get to see justice being done to them. Take the Jessica Lal murder trial for instance… a classic example of undue delays in completing legal proceedings. The system unfortunately ends up toying with the emotions of people!!!

Legal proceedings are extremely expensive too. Lawyer fees and all other forms of fees and charges (the black and white variety!!!) burn a hole in the pockets of those pleading for justice. Unwarranted delays and repeated hearings scheduled, only adds to their financial woes. No wonder British poet and satirist, Samuel Butler, rightly highlighted… ‘In law, nothing is certain but the expense.’ If this trend continues, seeking justice could soon be classified as a luxury service for the rich only!!!

To add to this, the deadly judicial authorities-politicians nexus and their impact on legal cases has only been widening. The white kurta clad mantris and their kith and kin have somehow managed to cast their spell in India’s courtrooms as well. Given the number of mafia-goon-local dada turned political ‘leaders’ today, it is but obvious that almost all of them have atleast a few cases pending against them. Politicians who enter with a clean chit are just one step behind. Nepotism is rampant among people with authority. In their case, money speaks!!! Judges, lawyers and witnesses – all available at a price – making it a lot easier for the moneyed to get away scot-free.

Not far behind are our most admired stars from tinsel town. Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and the likes… their courtroom dramas seem longer than Ekta Kapoor’s endless family dramas!!! I think crazy movie fans have already given these stars enough space to dazzle on the silver screen. We can spare our courts from their endless celebrity presence!!!

In all this white-collared chaos the financially weak and innocent end up as losers!!! It’s time we all stand up and demand a total revamp of the system. We need to take several steps to restore glory to the black gown!!!

As rightly said by American politician, Henry Ward Beecher, ‘Laws and institutions, like clocks must occasionally be cleaned, wound up and set to true time.’

In my opinion the first step in this mammoth effort should be to clear the system of all its filth - dishonest legal officers, irrelevant and extinct laws, pending cases – all of it!!! Older cases should be quickly taken up and justice should be brought to the innocent. Pending and new cases should be classified according to severity and should be allotted to various courts for hearings. Several new local legal bodies like Lok Adalats should be set up. The system should set up certain predefined parameters to determine the maximum level up to which the case can be passed upward. This would reduce the unwarranted burden on the higher courts.

The system should be extremely transparent. Statistics about completed, pending and new cases should be made public. Stories of dishonest legal officials and action taken should also be shared with the citizens. Steps like these would slowly rebuild the feeling of trust and respect for the judiciary in our minds.

Third party legal moderators should assess cases that enter high courts and define a maximum time limit for the judgments to be made. This will help keeping a tab on undue delays.

Most importantly, fresh law graduates should be conditioned to work with 100% integrity and sincerity!!! They are the future of the Indian Judicial System… they are the ones who are capable of wiping away the tears behind the blindfold!!!

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